The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 30, 2014

Area lawmakers divided

— Two Johnstown lawmakers said Monday that they are opposed to the budget while a Somerset County representative, while not completely fond of the budget, said he would vote for the plan.

State Sen. John Wozniak, D-Westmont, said he voted against the $29.1 billion budget because it was crafted on gimmicks, generous revenue estimates and accounting tricks.

“Because this is another spending plan that is created on the backs of misguided priorities and illusions of grandeur that very well might not happen, Pennsylvania’s taxpayers are at great risk of falling deeper into fiscal trouble,” he said.

Citing the budget’s failure to more adequately invest in education and properly fund community revitalization and job-creation programs, he said the budget promises to cloud Pennsylvania’s future.

“A year ago, we adopted a forward-looking transportation plan to rebuild Pennsylvania’s aging infrastructure, but all of the new roads, bridges and mass transit systems won’t mean an ounce of importance to companies looking to open a business here if we continue to not properly train our workforce or educate our children,” he said.

State Rep. Carl Walker Metzgar, R-Berlin, said he had misgivings, but supported the budget.

There are no new taxes in the budget, an important matter, he said, especially when considering that just six months ago, a bill was passed that increased the gasoline tax a total of 41 cents over a number of years.

“In that context, it would be bad faith to ask the taxpayers for more money,” said Metzgar, who opposed the increase in the gasoline tax.

Event though there is no tax increase, the budget is a little high, particularly in the area of welfare expenditures, he said.

State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, said he opposed the budget, making it the fourth consecutive year he voted against a state spending plan.

Chief among his criticisms are a severe lack of education, health care and human-services funding as well as the statewide politicizing and misallocation of funding.

“How can the makers of this budget look Pennsylvanians in the eye and say they did the best they could when it contains out-of-touch revenue forecasts and one-time raids on questionable funds?” he said.

“What Pennsylvania has now is a budget full of illusions and fuzzy math, when we could have closed loopholes and revised wasteful spending.

“To make matters worse, the adminstration never showed leadership in determining a fair and equitable funding formula for education.”

The state’s participation in Medicaid expansion also would have been an excellent way to supplement the budget, he said.

Frank Sojak is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FrankNews10.

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